Chemical Biology

Chemical Biology

The chemical biology Ph.D. path at UW-Madison was established in 2010. The program is highly competitive, centered on research, and provides integrated, world-class training at the interface of chemistry and biology. U.S. News & World Report ranks UW-Madison Department of Chemistry No. 2 in the U.S. for biochemistry (i.e., chemical biology).

Today, many exciting research opportunities lie at the interfaces between disciplines. The interface between chemistry and biology is particularly rich, and a number of research groups in the UW-Madison Department of Chemistry interweave ideas from chemistry and biology to solve important problems. Our faculty are helping to define this evolving approach to science. UW-Madison is one of the strongest centers in the world for research at the chemistry-biology interface.

The chemical biology research at UW-Madison is exceptionally broad in scope. Research groups are generally either developing new experimental and spectroscopic techniques to characterize biomolecules and biological phenomena, synthesizing compounds and materials with novel biological activity, or combining both of these approaches. Because this type of research is inherently collaborative, many faculty conduct joint projects with other research groups in the department and across campus at UW-Madison. In this interactive environment, faculty and students share specialized equipment and facilities and seek out opportunities for collaboration.

Students in the chemical biology path benefit from seminars, research experiences, and other types of connections with UW-Madison departments such as bacteriology, biochemistry, biomedical engineering, biomolecular chemistry, chemical and biological engineering, medical microbiology and immunology, and pharmacy.

View a list of current chemical biology path faculty or chemical biology path graduate students.

Apply to the graduate program in chemistry.

Photo credit: Sarah Morton, College of Letters & Science


  • Chemical biology path chair: Professor Helen Blackwell
  • Chemical biology path coordinator (for administrative questions about program requirements, admissions, seminars, room scheduling, etc.): Beatriz Lemire

Related Programs

Chemical biology Professor Lloyd Smith talks to a grad student
Chemical biology path faculty member Professor Lloyd Smith speaks with a student at a poster session

Active Chemical Biology Research Areas

  • Mechanisms of in vitro and in vivo protein folding by time-resolved fluorescence and multidimensional NMR
  • Chemical glycobiology
  • Single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) analyses
  • Synthesis of small molecule and macromolecular tools to study cell-cell signaling
  • Elucidation of protein-, nucleic acid-, carbohydrate-, and small molecule-protein interactions with biophysical and chemical tools
  • Design and synthesis of protein and receptor mimics (aka foldamers)
  • Computational approaches to protein structure and function
  • Spectroscopic study of biomolecular structure
  • Cell-cell signaling in prokaryotes and eukaryotes
  • Multi- and monolayer assembly of biomolecules at surfaces
  • New polymeric materials for gene and drug delivery
  • Natural product biosynthesis and metabolic pathway engineering
  • Enzyme mechanism and synthesis of enzyme inhibitors
  • Integration of biological molecules with novel materials for nanoscale chemical sensing and bio-electronic integration
  • Development of new chemical and instrumental approaches to biological mass spectrometry at the single cell level
  • In vivo fluorescence and single molecule dynamics
Chemical biology students and faculty at the path's Fourth-year Seminar Day
Chemical biology students and faculty at the annual chemical biology path fourth-year seminar day

Chemical Biology Faculty by Research Area

Bioorganic & Bioinorganic Chemistry

Physical Biology

Quantitative Biology & Biomaterials